More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – General Motors Corp.’s goal is to stop Toyota Motor Corp. from becoming the world’s No.1 auto maker, but that “may be impossible,” Bob Lutz, vice chairman in charge of product development, tells reporters at the auto show here.

“Even if we eat away at them in the Asian market, their volume and their growth is so huge,” Lutz says.

But GM must continue to run its own race, he adds. “We’ve got to know they’re there. They’ve stated they want to be No.1. We have to say, `OK that’s fine, we think we have the right strategy to stay No.1.’”

Lutz says he still believes GM will gain share.

Lutz says he is confident GM is “headed for a surge” that could help it stave off Toyota in the U.S.

He rattles off a list of products – including the new Pontiac G6, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Cobalt and a string of new minivans (Chevrolet Uplander, Buick Terraza, Pontiac Montana SV6 and Saturn Relay) that he says are exhibiting solid early demand from buyers.

“Our intention always is to gain share,” Lutz says. Last year, “we didn’t, and that’s bad. But once again, we feel optimistic we will gain share (in 2005).”

Lutz says he is unsure whether dropping to No.2 in the world would be greatly damaging to GM.

“Internally it would be terrible,” he says. “We use that fear as motivation. But personally, I’m not sure people buy from a car maker because its brand is the biggest or they don’t buy from the No.2 guy because he’s No.2.

“Does anyone really know or care? Put the right product out and they will buy. Product overpowers everything.”

dzoia@primediabusiness.com